True wireless earphones are plentiful these days and entering the fray is almost mandatory.
That said, the market-leading Apple AirPods are so good for the price point that you've got to offer something fresh even if - as the Echo Buds do - the price is a lot less. Just as well then, that the Echo Buds do offer something fresh at this price point - more on that shortly.
- Pressure-sensitive pads on each
- IPX4 splashproof
- Three types of eartips provided
Let's look at how these earphones look to start with. And the news is, er, not brilliant. When in the ear they look fine - not unbelievably chunky and not head-turning. But in the hand, they feel just a little bit plasticky, which is a little disappointing.
The smooth-finish charging case is fairly sizeable, but it's not ridiculous - certainly not as chunky as some rival cases. There's an argument that bigger is better in some ways - you've certainly got less chance of losing them than you have with the AirPods, for example.
The Buds come with three different-sized eartips. Usually, we struggle with fit of earphones like these, but the Echo Buds were easy to fit into the ear and actually rather comfortable.
The Buds are IPX4 rated, which is splashproof - basically, if it rains, all is cool. But if you're going to go for a hike in torrential rain, they're not the earphones for you.
- Noise reduction tech from Bose
- Passthrough enabled with a double-tap
The Echo Buds' do offer something that others don't at their low price point - noise reduction tech from Bose. Note that it's not noise cancelling unlike the Sony WF-1000XM3 - you can still hear some stuff even when it's enabled, such as someone talking close to you.
The noise reduction tech is effective though, invoked with a double-tap to the earphones. Otherwise, the Buds are in passthrough mode so you can hear your surroundings better, useful for busy commutes or trying to hear someone in the office.
They also auto-pause when you take one out like many other true wireless earphones.
Each Bud has two drivers, plus two outer and two inner microphones and sounded OK; it's worth remembering that these are priced towards the lower end of the true wireless market, but above some $99/£99 and lower options from the likes of Audio-Technica, Creative and Anker.
Alexa and battery life
- Hands-free Alexa
- You can also get to other assistants
- Battery life of four hours, with three charges in the case
- micro USB-charging
The Buds offer complete hands-free use of Alexa, so you can just wake her up with the Alexa wake word. This is enabled through the Alexa app on your phone, so it'll use your mobile data.
You don't need to press a button to invoke the assistant or anything like that. Interestingly, you can also tap and hold to bypass Alexa and access your phone's built-in assistant, whether that's Google Assistant or Siri.
In our brief time using the earphones, there were a few problems getting Alexa to listen, but the Amazon representative assured us that the devices and Alexa app version were pre-release and we should expect a better experience when the Buds go on sale.
The buds have five hours of music playback or four hours of talk time, which is pretty common for earphones like these. There are three additional charges in the case.
Echo Buds offer hands-free Alexa and noise reduction for a great price point. We've some reservations over design and audio quality as we've mentioned and Alexa didn't work brilliantly in our demo.
But they're certainly comfortable and Amazon will probably sell an awful lot of them. But this is an extremely busy market and it's only a matter of time before there are numerous other noise-reducing buds which sound and look better available for a similar price point.
The Echo Buds will be available later in 2019.